Hal Fickett & Company is a digital marketing agency. As marketers, we can’t help but form opinions on advertising efforts of other businesses, especially high profile companies with commercials in the Super Bowl. Every once in a while, one of those large companies makes a serious miscalculation and the viewing public is quick to let them know. This year Nationwide Insurance made one such snafu.
Here’s our take on the #Nationwide Insurance #SuperBowl ad –
Nationwide may have had good intentions, but they went about it in an entirely incorrect fashion. Showing a kid who was revealed to be already dead was poor taste no matter when the ad aired. However, choosing to air this ad during the Super Bowl was clearly not well thought out. Most people viewing the Super Bowl were doing so with the hopes of being entertained while enjoying a festive atmosphere with friends. That is not the ideal time to use a shock-value ad, especially one featuring a dead child and an over-filled bathtub. The message Nationwide was trying to get across (We can prevent childhood deaths by spreading awareness) was entirely lost by the time the ad reached the final seconds with the relevant information. Not only was it poorly timed, but many viewers felt Nationwide was trying to monetize one of the most horrific tragedies imaginable and every parent’s absolute worst nightmare.
Nationwide appears to feel differently. As they began to feel the heat from angry viewers on social media they released a statement defending the commercial: “While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere”. In short, they are going with the old saying “Any publicity is good publicity.” Olivier Rubel, a marketing professor from UC Davis, appeared to agree with them stating, “They’re (viewers) not going to buy insurance right now. But down the line they are going to think about safety and who is going to be my partner for safety, maybe they’re going to think about Nationwide.”
This argument was popular a few years ago, but now with a more social media-savvy audience, it falls flat. Memes were flying around the internet within minutes and many people were promising to never purchase insurance from Nationwide. Others called for Peyton Manning to end his endorsement of the company. As Cindy Boren from the Washington Post stated, “…this (ad) from Nationwide was just too, too much.” Patrick Coffee from Adweek.com pointed out “Nationwide is not a counseling service; it sells insurance.”
No matter how honest Nationwide’s intentions were, the price they paid for poor judgment will only be fully understood over time. For now we feel it’s safe to say they wasted almost $9 million dollars on an ineffective ad and incensed a good portion of America in 47 seconds.